Mule Deer Foundation partners with landowner for conservation project

Mule Deer Foundation partners with landowner for conservation project
Photo credit: Dreamstime

A North Dakota rancher is working with the Mule Deer Foundation to stop the spread of invasive evergreen trees across several thousand acres in the Tracy Mountain area. This particular area is home to mule deer and other wildlife where these types of trees are causing interruptions in critical habitat, according to The Dickinson Press.

“Juniper and cedar are kind of an invasive species here in North Dakota. They have been allowed to grow in deep draws, north facing slopes and stuff like that because they create windbreaks,” said Marshall Johnson, senior regional director of the Mule Deer Foundation for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Partnerships like the one between Shade and the Mule Deer Foundation benefit both the wildlife and the cattle that use the land since removing the invasive evergreens allows grassland to flourish. Kim Shade, owner of the ranch located approximately 20 miles south of Medora, used his excavator to clear juniper from a canyon where “there were hundreds of deer tracks,” according to The Press. While this type of land maintenance is necessary in order to help local wildlife, Shade acknowledges that he typically tries to keep off grasslands as much as possible. 

“I feel bad, I don’t even drive my truck on my grass back here,” said Shade. “But I hate these cedar trees so much I’ve got to do something.”

According to Johnson, while the junipers do “provide windbreaks and cover for small game and rodents,” they really are “counterproductive and serve no purpose” since “nothing grows underneath them and they divert moisture that’s necessary for health grass.”

Over 20 volunteers from MAP Mechanical General Contractors, Petro-Hunt LLC, Marathon Oil, Rossco Crane and Whiting Petroleum Corp. Bobcat helped with the conservation efforts by providing time and equipment like skidsteers and other construction equipment. Those volunteer efforts were organized by the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC), which has been supporting conservation projects like these for several years. 

“We helped the Mule Deer Foundation with this project at the Shade Ranch, a Missouri River cleanup near Williston, a project at the Richards Ranch in Beach,” said Tessa Sandstrom, NDPC’s director of community relations. “Many of our employees, Ron and I, we all are outdoorsmen and women who enjoy hunting and hiking. So when there’s opportunities to work with these groups we’re happy to help. Conservation and the environment, those are pretty important to us.”

It took the group of volunteers two days to cut down thousands of evergreens, which were stacked into burn piles that will be lit once controlled burning conditions permit it.


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